Officials: Legal System Lets Down Abused Women Batterers Get off Easy, Say Leaders at Domestic Violence Summit

By Martha Shirk Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 1, 1994 | Go to article overview

Officials: Legal System Lets Down Abused Women Batterers Get off Easy, Say Leaders at Domestic Violence Summit


Martha Shirk Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WITH O.J. SIMPSON'S trial focusing attention on domestic violence, local leaders on Friday took stock of their own prevention and prosecution efforts - and pronounced them severely lacking.

"As the system currently works, women have every reason not to trust it," said St. Louis Circuit Attorney Dee Joyce-Hayes, who is responsible for prosecuting batterers in the city.

St. Louis Police Chief Clarence Harmon said: "Before this day comes to a close, as many as four women will have lost their lives at the hands of their male partners. Domestic violence is not just a law enforcement problem. It will take the community with all of its resources and all of its capacities to stem the violence."

Joyce-Hayes and Harmon were among the community leaders who took part in the area's first "summit on domestic violence," which was sponsored by Legal Advocates for Abused Women.

Sheila Jennings Kelleher, the group's executive director, said that it was the first time that government, business, medical and educational leaders had come together to discuss the problem. "We hope it's the start towards a coordinated community response," she said.

The purpose of the summit was to develop a local action plan to improve prevention and enforcement. Among the problems participants identified and the solutions they proposed:

Some victims of domestic violence are being fired for taking off from work to go to court to seek orders of protection. Summit participants proposed sending educational materials to employers to persuade them to be more supportive of employees who need to go to court to protect themselves.

In the city, 40 percent of the orders of protection issued by judges are never served on alleged batterers. Unless an order is served, it can't be enforced.

Circuit Judge Thomas C. Mummert, presiding judge of the St. Louis Family Court, said he would look into hiring a special process server for these orders. …

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